Leather! Oh, that buttery softness…what more do you need to know? There are different types of leather, with different qualities. To get leather-educated, there’s no need to light out for a tannery. You just need to know enough to ensure you’re getting the right type of leather with the right qualities for the right investment.
Full-grain leather is typically made from whole cow hides rather than pieces. It’s high-quality, durable and breathable. It also becomes softer with wear. Extra treatment, such as sanding, is minimal in order to avoid weakening the material. This lack of treatment exposes natural flaws, which is good or bad as a matter of taste.
Nubuck leather is usually made from full-grain leather. It’s extremely soft with a velvety, plush, suede-like feel achieved through sanding. Natural imperfections are often covered with colored dye. Nubuck leather is more vulnerable to stains and signs of wear than full-grain leather, so wear it away from mud puddles or look for options with protective treatments.
Although many people consider suede and leather to be two different materials, suede is actually a type of leather. Unlike full-grain leather, suede is made from pieces of a hide rather than a whole hide. That’s why it’s normally less expensive. Like nubuck leather, suede is also sanded, so it’s less durable, and it’s more vulnerable to stains. So why bother with suede? It still looks and feels great, and you can opt for styles with protective treatments.
Always a hit for holidays and special occasions, patent leather is simply a leather that has been treated with plastics or resin to make it reflective and shiny.
Specialty Leather—“Watch Words”
Vachetta is a type of leather that is left untreated, so the sun helps it develop a rich patina over time. Vachetta has long been seen in designer handbags and luggage, but is becoming increasingly popular in footwear. Vachetta is also known casually as “Florentine” leather.
Opanka isn’t so much a type of leather as a type of leather construction. It’s an old-world technique for hand-stitching the leather uppers of shoes directly to the soles for better durability and flexibility.
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